By John Balch
“I would’ve never even dream of anything like this. But, I’d rather be proactive and pray this is all a waste of time and money.”
South Pike County School District Superintendent Roger Featherston’s comment concerns the district’s overhaul of campus security protocol now underway and will include on-campus School Resource Officer Wayne Epperly, the arming of up to eight employees, new locks and cameras in every classroom.
Featherston said that within the next month eight employees are expected to complete training to become “commissioned School Security Officers” and will join Officer Epperly in carrying a firearm on campus.
Featherston said that he, Epperly and district maintenance supervisor Troy Stone have all now completed ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) requirements to qualify as licensed trainers for school drills.
The names of the other employees who will be armed are not being released to increase the effectiveness of the program.
Epperly is a 1999 Murfreesboro High School graduate and a certified firearm instructor. He has been in law enforcement since 2006 and is still employed by the Pike County Sheriff’s Department through a mutual agreement to supply officers to the county’s three school districts.
Campus access is also being overhauled with video/audio locking systems – connected to the corresponding offices – installed at main building entrances on both campuses. The locks have capability of being controlled remotely by smart phone and will certainly take visitors and staff some getting used to.
“The days of just strolling on to campus are long gone,” Featherston said. “We understand it’s a little bit of an inconvenience, but it’s in the interest of safety for the kids and staff.”
Within the high school building, magnetic locks will be used for four high-traffic doors and Featherston said these locks can also be activated or deactivated remotely. He added teachers and staffers are being drilled to keep certain doors locked and stop propping open entrances.
There are already approximately 70 cameras rolling in the district’s hallways and Featherston said every classroom now has its own camera. The classroom cameras will only be accessible to the superintendent and building principals and “will only be used as needed.”
Improving communications was also a security issue addressed in the overhaul with the installation of the intercom/phone system, Voice Over The Internet Phone. The system can serve as an intercom or a private connection that Featherston said can be used between teachers, classrooms, offices or a teacher making an outgoing call to a parent. The system will also provide voicemails for all teachers.
“There’s a lot of advantages to (this system),” Featherston said. “Plus, it should drastically lower our phone bill.”
As new security measurements go into place, two “new” principals are also finding their places on campus.
In the high school office is Davey Jones, a 1992 MHS graduate who worked for his alma mater from 2005 to 2011 as a teacher and coach and most recently worked as middle school principal for Pike County’s Centerpoint School District.
Jones has a degree in education from Ouachita Baptist University and a master’s in educational leadership from Harding University. His wife, Melissa, is a math teacher and curriculum coordinator at MHS, and both of his parents, Tom and Mary Anne Jones, taught and coached at MHS.
Cindy Lee of Delight will take over in the elementary this year after teaching third grade on campus last school year. She taught also taught 17 years at Delight, prior to the consolidation with Murfreesboro. Lee originally hails from southern Arkansas (Union High School class of 1982) and has a degree in elementary education with a minor in special education from Southern Arkansas University and a master’s as a reading specialist from Henderson State University. She is also a licensed K-12 curriculum specialist and K-8 building administrator through Arkansas State University.